Manchester United's road to Wembley in the
F.A. Cup started with a 3rd Round tie against Middlesbrough. United started brightly
enough with the young Wes Brown among those looking sharp. However it was Middlesbrough
that took the lead early in the second half. After this United rose to the challenge and
drew level with Cole. A penalty made it 2-1 before a final minute goal from Giggs
following a sweet one-two with Solskjaer completed the display.
United met Liverpool in the 4th Round and Ferguson later
reflected that defeating Liverpool was the pivotal point which set up the treble Season.
Liverpool had taken an early lead through Owen in the 3rd minute. United were to hit the
woodwork twice and dominated most of the second half but were unable to reply. Old
Trafford appeared to be facing defeat before United finally ejected Liverpool in a
stunning finish. A Beckham free-kick found Cole whose cushioned header gifted Yorke with a
close range equaliser on 88 minutes. The relief around Old Trafford was nothing to compare
with the ecstatic celebrations which followed. Deep into stoppage time Solskjaer received
the ball then wrong-footed Liverpool's defence before striking his 90th minute winner and
riotous euphoria boiled over.
United's reward was a 5th Round home tie against Kevin
Keegan's Fulham. Keegan was at the centre of speculation and about to become the next
England manager. Fulham battled bravely but United went though with an Andy Cole goal
separating the teams.
The 6th Round draw pitched United against fellow
Premiership rivals Chelsea. The first match finished 0-0, although United had made 24
attempts on goal as against Chelsea's four. Phil Neville made an admirable job of marking
Zola, and Wes Brown filled well for the suspended Stam. However, the last thing United had
wanted before the match was a reply adding to their fixture list.
The replay was won 2-0, thanks to the finishing of Dwight
Yorke and the presence of Peter Schmeichel. After 4 minutes Cole nodded down to Yorke to
volley in from eight yards. Chelsea responded brightly and only Schmeichel denied Zola
when through on goal. United slowly took more control, and the match was put beyond reach
in the 59th minute when Yorke received the ball with a brilliant first touch chip to score
The F.A.Cup Semi Final was a titanic battle with Arsenal.
United had the better of a match in which even extra time was unable to produce a result.
The most controversial moment came after 38 minutes, with Giggs beating Dixon to cross to
Yorke who nodded into the path of Keane. Keane's 12 yard shot flew into the net only for
the linesman to rule Yorke off-side. The match remained at 0-0 and in extra time Vivas was
sent off for elbowing Nicky Butt, but United were unable to force home an advantage over
10 man Arsenal.
The replay was to be the last ever F.A.Cup Semi Final
replay; if necessary future games were to be decided on penalties rather than a replay. It
was to be an epic encounter and the excitement was unremitting.
After 17 minutes Beckham placed a wonderful 20 yard shot
beyond Seaman. United held on until the 69th minute when a long effort from Bergkamp was
deflected off Stam and into the United net. Then in the 73rd minute Keane was dismissed
and United were down to 10 men. With Arsenal having the extra man advantage United held on
with a bravely fought rearguard action. Then, in the final minute, Arsenal were awarded a
penalty which would surely take them to Wembley. It was Bergkamp who was charged with the
spot-kick, and with seconds of normal time remaining, Schmeichel made one of the great
stops of his career.
With United facing extra time with 10 men, they pushed
forward but never convincingly. Then Ryan Giggs took centre stage. Taking possession of a
loose ball in his own half, Giggs set off on a run which took him 70 yards and past five
Arsenal challenges before unleashing a mighty drive from six yards into the roof of the
Arsenal net. The only debate in the next day's press centred around that goal and whether
it was not only the greatest ever scored in the competition, but also simply one of the
greatest solo goals ever.
United's reward was an F.A. Cup Final against Newcastle
United. With the Premier League Championship already won and a European Champions League
Cup Final to follow, United were on the second leg of their magnificent treble.
United dominated the game. Keane was unlucky to be injured
early on and and was replaced by Sheringham in the 9th minute. By the 11th minute
Sheringham had put United 1-0 up and yet again one of Ferguson's substitutions had been
rewarded (Cole having done the same in the final Premiership game of the Season a week
United remained in control for most of the match and a
Scholes strike, set up by Sheringham, put the game beyond Newcastle after 52 minutes.
United had completed their third Premier League and F.A.Cup
double, and were now only one game away from the treble.